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Introduction to Country Context

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The Kingdom of Swaziland is a mountainous landlocked country covering 17,364 square kilometres in the south-eastern corner of Africa. Three quarters of its area is bordered by South Africa and one quarter by Mozambique. According to the 2007 population census, the population of Swaziland is 1,018 449 inhabitants with about 78.9% residing in rural areas. 52% of the population is under the age of 20 years. The geographical population distribution between the four regions of the country is as shown in table 1 below.

In 2007 the total number of households was 212, 403 with an average household size 4.7 persons.

Table1 Total Resident Population by Region and Sex 2007.png

The capital is Mbabane (population 69 000) and the largest city is Manzini (population 75,000). The average population density is 68.2 per square kilometre. The country is divided into four administrative regions: Hhohho (where the capital, Mbabane, and government ministries are located), Manzini (which contains the largest industrial site in the country), Lubombo and Shiselweni. The country is further subdivided into 55 constituencies which operate as administrative centres and 360 chiefdoms.

The country’s national per capita income is USD 2,470 (World Bank, 2009) and is regarded as a lower middle income country. Growth in economic activity improved in 2010 after slowing down in 2009. Consequently, economic growth in 2009 plummeted to 1.2 per cent from a growth of 2.4 per cent realized in 2008. However in 2010 a slight rebound of the domestic economy led the economic performance growth to an estimate of 2 per cent.

The country’s sluggish economic growth is attributable to a combination of factors that include; low levels of foreign direct investment; the slow pace of economic and legislative reforms; a lack of commercial agriculture; an undiversified export base and export market; high prevalence of communicable and non-communicable diseases; erratic weather conditions and an un-conducive business environment among others.

The proportion of the population defined as poor fell from 69 per cent in 2000/01 to 63 per cent in 2009/10 . That modest but still significant decline in poverty incidence over a decade has nevertheless led to lowering the absolute numbers of poor people from around 678,000 individuals in 2000/01 to 641,000 individuals in 2009/10. On the overall nearly 3 in 10 fall short of meeting their daily nutritional needs and that the situation remained the same at the beginning of the decade. Poverty in Swaziland is considered essentially as a rural phenomenon.

Poverty head count was estimated around 73 per cent in rural areas in 2010 while at only 31 per cent in urban areas. The high poverty rates in the population increases the dependency rate which is estimated at 76.2% which strains the economy’s ability to provide adequate social services, such as health care and education. Poverty reduction is one of the priorities that are being addressed by Government. This has led to the development of the Poverty Reduction Strategy and Action Plan (PRSAP), 2006 and a further development of the Economic Recovery Strategy 2011.

Swaziland’s unemployment rate stood at 28.5 per cent in 2010, which represents deterioration from 28.2 per cent recorded in 2007. If discouraged workers (those who have stopped looking for jobs but want to work and are available to work are included amongst the unemployed), the unemployment rate rises to 40.6 per cent in 2010.

Youth unemployment (the unemployment rate for those aged 15 to 24 years) is considerably higher than the national average, standing at 53.3 per cent in 2007. Another factor driving the country’s low labour force participation rate is discouragement with many seeking employment in the belief that no jobs are available.

Unemployment in the country has strong rural dimension, i.e. those residing in rural areas are much more likely to be unemployed than those living in urban areas. In 2010, the unemployment rate in rural areas was 37.1 per cent compared to 16.7 per cent in urban areas.